Say you want to change the default-lazy-init attribute programmatically. The most common use case for this seems to appear with unit-testing. In fact, you probably want to load everything when starting a production server, even if it costs you more time. But when testing, and particularly on your machine, you might want to inverse this behaviour. In fact, you might be interested in not loading every 1000 beans of your context when you just need less than 10 for example...

A (beginning of) solution

If you crawl Google, you might find this entry that links to this other one that explains how to programatically modify the lazy-init attribute of each bean of your context. In fact, before the loading occurs, you can iterate through the bean list and call setLazyInit using the method AbstractBeanDefinition.setLazyInit(true). This will be roughly equivalent to manually put lazy-init="true" on every single bean of your context files.

The problem

The problem with this is that you override everything that was declared in the XML context file. You might want a particular bean be instantiated lazily or eagerly for some reason. But iterating through the whole list like this won't let you keep what was explicitly defined and only redefine the default value. Another problem is that you may have to exclude some bean from this loop, ending up with a condition that really looks like an ugly hack :

for (String beanDefinitionName : context.getBeanDefinitionNames()) {
    AbstractBeanDefinition beanDefinition = (AbstractBeanDefinition)context
    // FIXME : ugly hack
    if (!"org.springframework.aop.config.internalAutoProxyCreator".equals(beanDefinitionName)) {

Having to exclude the one bean that's (according to its name) responsible for proxying beans that have to be lazy-loaded seems quite reasonable. But the thing is you obviously don't have to do it when you put the default-lazy-init manually...

So I looked for a way to simply replace the default value of this attribute instead. After some time digging into Spring code, I finally found it.

When parsing context definition written in XML (since writing it in XML is no requirement), Spring will use an instance of BeanDefinitionReader that will then call DefaultBeanDefinitionDocumentReader to parse the Document instance. Searching a bit more lets us find where the default values are initialized : BeanDefinitionParserDelegate.initDefaults().


public class LazyInitByDefaultBeanDefinitionDocumentReader extends DefaultBeanDefinitionDocumentReader
        protected BeanDefinitionParserDelegate createHelper(XmlReaderContext readerContext, Element root)
                root.setAttribute(BeanDefinitionParserDelegate.DEFAULT_LAZY_INIT_ATTRIBUTE, "true");
                return super.createHelper(readerContext, root);

I would have preferred to use the seemingly more dedicated method preprocessXml(Node root)], but this method is called after createHelper(), so the default values are already initialized when calling preprocessXml()... So overriding preprocessXml() is "too late".

I think I'm going to submit a patch into the Spring bug tracker about this problem.


When you do unit-testing with Spring, you generally inherit the AbstractDependencyInjectionSpringContextTests class. Add this method redefinition to enable the "lazy by default" behaviour :

protected BeanDefinitionReader createBeanDefinitionReader(GenericApplicationContext context)
        XmlBeanDefinitionReader r = new XmlBeanDefinitionReader(context);
        return r;

Plain old Java (Spring) code

When you want to create an XML context, you generally use a ClassPathXmlApplicationContext instance. If you want to modify the default behaviour like here, you have to use a GenericApplicationContext. Note that this is what is adviced in the javadoc of ClassPathXmlApplicationContext :

This is a simple, one-stop shop convenience ApplicationContext. Consider using the GenericApplicationContext class in combination with an org.springframework.beans.factory.xml.XmlBeanDefinitionReader for more flexible context setup.

Here is the code using this GenericApplicationContext that enables the lazy-loading :

GenericApplicationContext context = new GenericApplicationContext();
XmlBeanDefinitionReader reader = new XmlBeanDefinitionReader(context);

When is it needed ?

At the moment, I see two reasons for enabling the lazy-loading by default :

  1. When unit-testing, this lets you test a part of the code a bit more quickly, since not every single beans needs to be instantiated.
  2. When using code-coverage tools to evaluate a part of the code, this prevents totally unrelated code to appear with non-null percentage.

Hope this small article will help some other people :-).